Saturday, April 27, 2013

Well Done Beth!!!!

A couple of weeks ago during the school Easter holidays Beth did a weeks course at the local University pool. She has been a life guard for a couple of years, but wanted to take it one step further and work in a public pool. The course was pretty intensive and physically very demanding, she was there from 8am to 5pm for a week and then 9am until 1pm on the Saturday for the exam. She passed with flying colours and now has the National Pool Lifeguard Qualification, this will allow her to work in any public pool.
Carl has worked for the Herts University Pool for years and they have been a very good employer. Very keen on ensuring the health and safety of their employees and the pool users. All staff are trained every month to keep their skills up AND the pay is above average!! Of course Beth was very keen to follow in her brothers footsteps. 

Last week she sent them her CV including her latest qualification, First Aid at work. They said they would get back to her.

Yesterday she had a call asking if she could go into staff training last night and two evenings next week. She agreed to that. So last night she joined in the training and afterwards she was told that she wold be invited to interview sometime in May, which was brilliant news. They said that they would pay her for all three training sessions, but best of all they gave her a full uniform!!! Staff handbook and employees information!!

So I wonder how the interview will go????
Well done Beth, you have cracked it, you can start saving for your car straight away!!!!

For me I will have the problem of trying to make sure the right uniform goes to the right person as Carl still occasionally helps out in swimming galas and competitions!!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Marseille and heading home.

The day we arrived in Marseille was miserable, it started raining as we left the ship and didn't stop all day. We were dropped off in a side street and we headed down to the quayside. By the time we arrived we were soaking wet. The photo above is a huge picture painted on the side of a building, it was the only blue sky we saw all day!! It is a tremendous picture, very realistic, people just stood and stared at it, like the couple with the umbrella on the left.

We soon found lots of life size animal models, all painted in a different style. I am not sure that we found them all, but we did find a Giraffe, bull, elephant and rhino. After a lot of searching on line I have found out that the animals belong to 'The Funny Zoo' take a look HERE to see what its all about!!

If it had been a nice day I think Marseille might have been very interesting. 

So what do we think about the holiday?? Well I am a confirmed Cruise fan and I do love the way MSC do cruising. They are a young cruise line that cater for children and families, so the entertainment is suitable for all. Its not too formal a good mix of activities and a spotless beautiful ship (as the MSC Opera had been the year before.) The value is incredible as they don't charge for children until they are 18 and hopefully we won't have any children wanting to come with us by then!! We booked a holiday which included the flights and transfers and that went without a hitch. If we had booked the flights separately we might have looked for flights to a closer airport, but I am not complaining. So what are the negatives? Only one that I can see and that is the size of the ship, it was absolutely enormous, far far bigger than I expected. On balance I think I prefer the smaller sized ship, but it wouldn't put me off going again. One day we might be able to take advantage of the cheaper school term prices, who knows!!!!

Oh and the other negative is that we didn't have our friends with us this year which is a shame, I am hopeful that in the future they will come again, I missed Rod doing the conga around the bar, John looking out to sea with his binoculars, Madeline listening to music while sunbathing fully clothed and Tina trying every possible food combination in an effort to get Bobbie to eat.

This year they also changed the practice drill at the beginning, this time you had to have your cruise card swiped to make sure you had been ;)  ;)  ;) !!!!

Friday, April 19, 2013


Our forth port of call was Barcelona!!! We arrived to a day of mixed weather. We decided to get an open topped bus and take a look around the city. I last visited a few years ago and really wanted to take a look at The Sagrada Familia, The Roman Catholic Cathedral designed by Gaudi.

I wanted to take a look inside as it is supposed to be breathtaking, unfortunately when we arrived the queue to go in went right the way around the block. So although taking the bus was cheaper, taking a tour with the ship would have got us in the back door, grrrrrrr.

 From the outside it was still pretty special. The cathedral is still not finished despite Gaudi being dead since the 1930's, the entry fee charged goes towards the ongoing work . Some parts are very new and others are being renovated, I don't think it will ever be finished.

In the streets nearby there were some great paving stones with interlocking patterns. Very lovely!

Because there were a huge number of tourists there were a lot of street entertainers, I loved this guy who made the most amazing humongous bubbles!

We stopped for a coffee and then hopped back on the bus for the return journey to the ship, by then it was pouring with rain , we still sat up the top and mainly avoided the wet. 
Earlier in the day we had driven by the central main station and spotted the hoards of taxis, no problems getting getting around the city with that many waiting!!!

Barcelona marked a turning point in the weather, for the rest of the trip it was wet and cold :(

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Our next stop was Tunisia in Northern Africa, our first visit to Africa. We decided that we were not brave enough to visit by ourselves as we didn't know enough about the culture and the locals. As it turned out that was the right decision ! We joined a trip from the ship exploring the souks and the Medina in La Goulette. I was interested to see what the markets were like.

After we arrived we were shown around by the guide, taking in several stalls and areas which I am convinced were run by the guides relatives!!

The stalls had a variety of goods, perfumed oils, leather slippers, traditional fez,delicate glass bottles, leather bags, all sorts of things. The down side was the continual pestering by street sellers and if you showed an interest in anything, the stall owner moved in for the kill. It became irritating.
I wanted a bag and a pair of slippers, so had to run the gauntlet of the bartering process. I found a nice beige leather backpack which started out at 65 Euros (they deal in euros as the currency is closed, tourists can't bring dinars in or take them out of the country, so they are happy to deal in euros or dollars) I said no and eventually got the bag for 15 euros which was about what I thought it was worth! The best bargain was a pair of tan leather slippers which started out at 50 euros and eventually they were sold to me for 5 euros. I am expecting both articles to fall apart any moment now!!! 

The worse bit was the unwelcome attention that Beth got. The men wouldn't leave her alone, I am sure I could have come away with several camels if I had decided to sell her. They would not take no for an answer and the more panicked she got the more attention they paid. In the end the only way was to to get loud and push them away, which is what I did, I physically pushed one particular guy and that attracted the attention of the guide who came over and gave the bloke a talking to. I really made us feel very unsafe and I would not want to repeat the visit any time soon.

We headed back to the ship and once in the port we took a look around a little group of shops, they were selling very similar goods for similar prices without the harassment, in future i would not go into town just stick with the port shops!!! Beth had a henna tattoo on her hand which has only just washed off!!!

As we returned to the ship the locals had bought out some camels to ride on, not something that any of us fancied trying!!

Safely back on the ship!! It was a day of huge contrasts if we ever go back, I will just walk around the port!!
We were glad to set sail that evening , the following day was at sea as we cruised to Barcelona, a great city where I felt a whole lot safer!!!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Assault on Etna.

Our second day was spent in Sicily, the week before we arrived the Etna had erupted, nothing major, just enough to chuck out a load of ash and a few fireworks, but by the time we got there it had gone back to sleep. We took a trip from the ship as Etna was around an hour away from the port. On the way there we saw the locals sweeping up piles of black ash and putting it in black plastic bags, according to our guide the ash is removed by the local council.

Once we got towards the top we hit the snow, the guide told us that Etna is a very active Volcano, but it is also very well monitored so there is time for people to get out of the way if necessary. He also told us that there are in excess of 100 separate craters. We visited a set of craters called the Sylvester Craters, they last erupted in 1990-1992. The landscape was very bare with no plants, it takes around 50 years before the plants are able to start growing again.

Tom and I walked up the crater with the intention of walking around the rim and down the other side. Unfortunately it was bitterly cold and very very windy. So windy that the guide thought it would be too dangerous to walk the rim, so we were only able to go half way around. In the photo above we are standing in front of a 'lava bomb' These huge rocks are thrown out of the live craters during an eruption and can do a huge amount of damage. 

Beth walked down into the crater and took this photo of us up on the rim.

Beth is in the middle of the crater above.

It was a fantastic trip loads of information and a close up of a volcano, if we had been able to stay longer we could have gone closer to the top, I was happy with a great day trip!!

Beth took a fantastic shot a nicely framed picture of the volcano showing the black of the last eruption and some wispy white smoke, framed by the clouds and the land!

Its hard to believe that we have been back nearly a week, Carl has returned from Florida and the kitchen is buried in washing again!!

Thursday, April 11, 2013


The first day we arrived in Naples having sailed along the Italian coast by the great volcano Vesuvius. We arrived in bright sunshine and real live warmth!!! (something I haven't experienced since last year!!)
We took a trip to Pompeii, a place that has always interested me. I was a bit worried as all the guides say that its quite hard going on the walking front, so when we booked we decided that we would go it alone if it became too much, well as it turned out I managed to keep up well and the guide was brilliant. Its a fantastic place to look around.

Vesuvius, from the ship on the way into Naples.

On the way into the main site, its hard to believe that all of this is 2000 years old and still standing!

The guide gave us lots of information about the town of Pompeii, The decorative town square, houses, stables and a brothel all formed part of the tour!

This photo has Vesuvius in the background, all those years ago the people must have had no idea what was going on, Vesuvius had not erupted in living history so when it went they had little clue what was coming. For two days the eruption buried the town to a depth of 12 to 14 feet in volcanic ash. On the third day the volcano really blew and the town above the ash line was vapourised by the pyroclastic flow. The town remained buried until 1748  when it was discovered again by a Spanish engineer. The site is huge and is still not fully excavated. 

Pompeii is most famous for the casts of the bodies of the inhabitants who lost their lives, it is strange looking at these relics it makes the ruins so real.

Outside we took a walk around the local market stalls and had a fresh lemon juice slush!
We also tasted some local Limoncello, which was lovely, after doing a lot of local market research, we bought a bottle of cream limoncello, its lush!!!

It was a very nice first day on our cruise and I am so glad that I made the effort to walk around and see everything in the ancient town. 

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Our Cruise has been and gone.......

We have just returned from a lovely trip on the brand new MSC Preziosa, a ship so huge its hard to describe just how big it is. The picture above was taken on the day that we arrived in Genoa and were boarding the ship. The ship was about to embark on its second cruise, I decided not to book the maiden cruise, just in case!!!
We flew from Gatwick to Nice in France. We did make a bit of an error because we had a flight at 7am on Easter Sunday morning, we had to be at the airport two hours before that and we had not realised that the clocks went forward that night, so we were very short on sleep!! We stayed at a Premier Inn and the next morning drove to the long stay airport at the South Terminal (the long stay at the North Terminal where we were flying from didn't open until the 1st of April) Once we were there we had to get a shuttle bus to the terminal and then a shuttle train to the correct terminal, we thought we had allowed enough time, but in the end we hadn't and it was a huge rush resulting in us going without anything to eat!!
We flew with British Airways, which was a first for all of us, they were just older versions of Easy Jets newer planes, although the leg room was very good!
On arrival in Nice we were directed to our third shuttle vehicle of the day for a two hour drive to Genoa to meet the ship. We were on board by two in the afternoon and settling into our cabin.

Once we had unpacked we went up on deck to try and find our way around, it wasn't very easy, previously I had been able to sort the front from the back, but this beast was  different, we had to learn where things were in an effort to get to the front or the back!! So by the end of the week we had established that our cabin was towards the front along with the theatre and that the restaurant and buffet were at the back along with the lounge with the entertainment in the evening.

The ship is 330 yards long, which is long ! I felt like I was walking to Panshanger shops every time we wanted to have a meal!! I expect the exercise helped in the long run because for the first time ever I came back from holiday having lost 1/2 lb!!!

The view from the top deck was fantastic, I felt like I was standing on the top of a block of flats!! The photo above is of the town of Genoa.

There were a load of different swimming pools, including a covered one and this infinity pool on the top deck, the was a water park and the longest water slide on a ship!! Beth and I braved the jacuzzi which was on deck on a day where it was blowing a gale and raining, we were on our own!!!

The holiday was dominated by Volcano's, Vesuvius and Etna, more about them in the next post!!!